Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

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Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It was Jan. 27. Scott Laughton was in Tampa, Fla.

He remembers it well. And he doesn’t want it to happen again.

“I remember the exact moment I was walking around and I got a call,” Laughton said. “And I just sat down with [GM Paul] Holmgren and talked about how I was going to go back to junior.”

Laughton, the center whom the Flyers selected 20th overall in the 2012 draft, learned he would be going back to the Oshawa Generals that day upon returning home from Florida. He wouldn't be staying with the Flyers for a sixth game.

There had been plenty of debate about whether Laughton, who averaged 11:31 on the ice and fit in seamlessly with the Flyers, would remain past the dreaded game No. 5. Per NHL rules, underage junior-level players can play nine games before a year is burned off their entry-level contracts. For last year’s lockout-shortened season, that number was cut to five.

In the end, the Flyers decided Laughton would be better served by playing top-six minutes and collecting time on special teams with the Generals. Even knowing the then-18-year-old would have spent a fair amount of time on the bench or in the press box had he stayed with the Flyers, the decision was a tough one.

“I think that he made a real strong impression on all of us,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He proved that he could skate, he could compete, that he was smart enough to jump into a lineup like that and play games.

“Going back and getting another year and getting stronger and more experience at that level, but to be more mature, more physically mature, I think that only helps him coming back to this year."

Unfortunately for Laughton, most of the Flyers’ roster for the 2013-14 season is set. Fortunately, though, the coaches and front office liked a lot of what they saw from him last year, and he will be getting a lot of looks during this week’s rookie camp -- which opened Friday -- and next week’s full team camp.

Laughton knows that. If any of the 26 participants in rookie camp make it to the Flyers' Oct. 2 season opener, chances are it will be him. And that's what he's trained for all summer, not just improving his strength and conditioning, but focusing on the areas of his game he knows he must take to the next level to succeed in the NHL.

He worked with a new trainer. He put on weight. He focused on improving his net presence.

“[I’m] definitely more confident, more comfortable,” he said. “I think I’m better in the offensive zone, definitely, and I think I’ve stuck with the defensive game -- I’m not cheating the puck or anything like that. I think staying on the offensive side, I’ve been better for sure.”

Though so much attention has been paid to the Flyers' defense and how the team is suddenly fully stocked -- if not overstocked -- on the blue line, the Flyers are particularly strong at center as well. Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Sean Couturier and Max Talbot are all technically ahead of Laughton on the depth chart at center.

At least thus far, however, Laughton has refrained from playing around with the Flyers' lineup and imagining how and where he might fit into it.

“I don’t think I need to,” he said. “I think my job is clear here, to try to get a spot on the team, and that’s the ultimate goal. I don’t need to look at the roster and see what’s going on. I’ve just got to do my job every day, and I hope it works out.”

There have already been plenty of discussions about Laughton's future, and whether 2013 could be the year he makes the full transition from juniors to pro. There have been so many, in fact, that the Flyers' front office has already begun to consider whether it could be worth moving Laughton from center to left wing, just to keep him around.

"Paul and I talked about that, and I think that’s something that we’ll look at and consider through training camp here," Laviolette said. "But he’s a centerman, that’s his natural position, and he’s going to be given plenty of opportunity to play center here."

That's OK with Laughton. And so too is a move to left wing -- even though he's never played it before.

After all, he said, “the ultimate goal is clear: just to make this team.”

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
 
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
 
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.

The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
 
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
 
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
 
All while he was preparing for states.
 
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
 
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
 
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
 
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
 
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
 
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
 
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
 
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
 
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
 
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
 
An NHL goal might do it.